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E-Mentoring: The Next Trend in Schools?

Over the last couple weeks, we've seen several stories about what some are calling e-mentoring, both for students and teachers.

Our colleague Sarah D. Sparks at EdWeek recently wrote a story highlighting the potential for e-adviser systems—which have been helpful at the higher ed. level in recommending courses for students—to bridge gaps left by dwindling K-12 counseling positions (see my Quality Counts story on this). The idea is that guidance counselors could use data collected by the system to get to know students, and their academic profiles, more quickly.

The Dallas News just featured a piece on how Big Brothers Big Sisters is using an online program to connect high school students with their mentors. According to the article, the digital format is beneficial because kids are comfortable communicating online (perhaps even more comfortable than face-to-face), and because it opens up mentoring to more time-strapped professionals.

And teacher-blogger Elena Aguilar wrote about a Gates Foundation study in Memphis comparing Web-based and face-to-face teacher coaching. Her take on Web-based communication, which the study found teachers were less likely to engage in consistently or "at a high level," was fairly cynical. She writes: "I'm also not surprised at all by this finding. And I'm really bothered that anyone ever considered this kind of online learning community to be professional development."

While these online-mentor relationships have key differences, the overarching idea remains the same: that some portion of a mentor-mentee relationship can occur without the two people being in close-enough proximity to shake hands (or hug, as the case may be). Feel free to extrapolate on what this could mean for the future of education or our youth, as many of us are wont to do, in the comments section below.

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